I became a feminist activist because I developed anorexia and nearly died. When I got better, I swore to do whatever I could to make it less likely others would have to go through the hell I did. I believe that eating disorders are just one awful and predictable outcome of a gender-mean society that tells women they must take up less space — and not just in physical shape and size.
I don’t think about this stuff every day, but it grounds the work I do. This is the moral center I bring to my work. When I get frustrated, or demotivated, or sick of being trolled, I remember why I’m doing what I’m doing, and my love pours back in. Oppression hurts.
Today I work primarily on increasing access to abortion and advancing reproductive justice — the right to not be pregnant, the right to be pregnant with dignity and access to quality health care, and the right to raise families in safe and healthy communities.
To me this work is a continuation of what propelled me into feminist activism in the first place: reproductive oppression, like shitty beauty standards, is predicated on the same core issues that stem from treating women like objects instead of human beings who deserve dignity, equality and respect. It’s about impossible demands on the body (food and sex are primal, yo), using internalized shame as a mechanism of control and subjugation, and a sense that women’s bodies are open for public comment and need to be controlled and tamed. And yes, men are both directly and indirectly oppressed on these lines, too, so fixing these problems benefits everyone.
So I’ve shared some version of that in more conversations and speeches I can count. It is, after all, my story and why I’m here. Today I shared this at William and Mary Law School in a talk on attacks on Planned Parenthood and how we can protect reproductive freedom.
After it was over, multiple students came up and thanked me for sharing my story. One, in particular, told me it was the first time she’d heard anyone — student or professor — share in a classroom that they’d experienced an eating disorder. Mind you this was only like a hot second of my presentation in the context of an hour, but it made a difference to her. How sad that so much of life is people pretending they’ve got it all figured out and always have. That is like the literal antithesis of power. It is overcoming that makes us strong.
We all have a reason why we work toward the causes we do, and it’s effective organizing to share it. But more important, when we share our authentic stories and make ourselves vulnerable, we are shouting the shame that’s supposed to hold us back and flipping it the bird. I believe it is radical act each time a woman tells the truth about her life. To other people. To herself.
Change really does start with you.
6 thoughts on “Share Your Truth Without Shame”
Reblogged this on Central Oregon Coast NOW.
As we said many years ago, the personal is political. Amazingly, that still rings true.
“But more important, when we share our authentic stories and make ourselves vulnerable, we are shouting the shame that’s supposed to hold us back and flipping it the bird.” So beautiful, and so true. Please consider submitting this story to our website, http://www.wearesisterstories.org, where we share stories of women’s resilience and strength.
Any particular focus? I might be able to come up with something…
Yes! Anything on women’s resilience and strength, so stories of your own resilience, or stories of women who inspire you. Would love to feature your story!
This so totally rings true for me. I coach parents to talk to their kids about sex (http://talkingaboutsex.com/), and when I introduce myself at the beginning of workshops, I tell the parents my story. My folks didn’t talk to us about sex until after abuse had already happened, then they disagreed about how to handle it, and they divorced. Thirty years later, my siblings are still struggling with sex and relationships. Not talking about sex literally broke my family. I hope that by sharing my story, I’m unraveling the shame as well as motivating the parents.